Vanessa Gao


To comma or not

I'll be honest, my English isn't as great as I thought it was. I had passable grades in school and I survived university with those grades. Although I enjoyed reading and didn't mind writing essays - yes I was quite nerdy in school - English was a subject I mildly cared about.

Therefore, when I discovered The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. I knew this was an opportunity to improve my English technical skills. Thank you Goodreads for once for recommending this to me.

The most often encountered struggle I have in the English language; is when do you put a bloody comma before a conjunction? Well Strunk laid that question to rest within the first few pages.


Rule No.4

Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause.

The early records of the city have disappeared, and the story of its first years can no longer be reconstructed.

The situation is perilous, but there is still one chance of escape.

Two-part sentences of which the second member is introduced by as (in the sense of “because”), for, or, nor, or while (in the sense of “and at the same time”) likewise require a comma before the conjunction.

If a dependent clause, or an introductory phrase requiring to be set off by a comma, precedes the second independent clause, no comma is needed after the conjunction.

The situation is perilous, but if we are prepared to act promptly, there is still one chance of escape.

When the subject is the same for both clauses and is expressed only once, a comma is useful if the connective is a but. When the connective is and, the comma should be omitted if the relation between the two statements is close or immediate.

I have heard the arguments, but am still unconvinced.

He has had several years’ experience and is thoroughly competent.

See the book review on Goodreads here